Panchayat Raj Institutions – Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957)

Balwant Rai Mehta Committee

Balwantrai Mehta Committee was the first Committee set up in 1957 to look into the problems of democratic decentralization in independent India. The Committee was asked to report on Community Development Programme (CDP). The Committee made far reaching recommendations in the direction of democratic decentralization and rural reconstruction. It pointed out that the community development programme was not successful because it failed to evoke local initiative and that in the absence of local initiative and local interest, development would not be possible.

The committee laid down five fundamental principles:

1. There should be three tier structures of local self government bodies from village to the district level and these bodies should be linked together.

2. There should be genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these bodies to enable them to discharge their responsibility.

3. Adequate resources should be transferred to these bodies to enable them to discharge their responsibilities.

4. All welfare and developmental schemes and programmes at all three levels should be channelled through these bodies, and

5. The three tier system should facilitate further devolution and disposal of power and responsibility in future. The committee envisaged three tire system of Panchayats known as Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat and recommended encouragement of peoples’ participation in community work, promotion of agriculture and animal husbandry, promoting the welfare of the weaker sections and women through the Panchayats.

For the first, time the Committee made recommendations for co-opting of two women who are interested to work for women and children. However, like the rest of the male members, women were not to be elected but were to be co-opted. The recommendations of the Balwantrai Mehta Committee came into effect on 1st April 1958. Rajasthan was the first state to implement it on 2nd October 1959. By mid 1960s, Panchayat had reached all parts of the country. More than 2,17,300 village Panchayats covering over 96% of the 5,79,000 inhabited villages and 92% of rural population had been established. There was enthusiasm in rural India and people felt that they had a say in the affairs affecting their daily life. These were considered as the promising days of Panchayat Raj Institutions in India. The report of the Ministry of Community Development had stated in 1964-65 that younger and better leadership was emerging through Panchayat Raj Institutions and there was a fairly high degree of satisfaction among the people with the working of the Panchayats.

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